TORONTO, Canada—“Jozy Altidore sets BMO Field alight on Toronto’s biggest night!”
He’s a club legend, unquestionably the greatest striker to ever play for this franchise, ‘Mr. TFC til’ I die’: Jozy Altidore’s legacy will forever be enshrined in the history of Toronto FC. But after his latest clash with head coach Chris Armas, a few months after a reported dispute with general manager Ali Curtis, could his reign as one of the faces of the franchise be coming to an end?
“With Jozy, I know there’s been some questions,” said Armas following the team’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday. “For the sake of respecting all parties involved, we wanted to get through this game and use the next days to take a step back before something is said out there. You know, again, there’s too much respect for all parties involved, so I’m not going to address anything with Jozy at the moment. Just that it’s an internal situation that, yeah, that’s it for now.”
Jeff Carlisle of ESPN reported late last week that the clash between Armas and Altidore was a result of Altidore being subbed off in the 70th minute against Orlando City SC with Toronto FC needing a goal. I’ve been told that the conversation went a lot further than that, and as a result, that may have just been the last straw for Altidore, a player who has never been shy about voicing his opinion when he believes something at the club is not right.
In February of 2020, prior to the start of the season, Altidore voiced his displeasure about the way the club handled Michael Bradley’s ankle injury, which resulted in Bradley being sidelined for the better part of seven months. At the beginning of 2019, Altidore called out Toronto FC President Bill Manning in the media about the firing of Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli who was let go after the sale of Sebastian Giovinco.
While Altidore escaped unscathed from his previous outbursts criticizing the club, this time, with the incident having taken place behind closed doors and with the striker being told to train on his own and being held out of Toronto FC’s most recent match against Columbus, things feel different.
To be clear, a decision has yet to be made on the future of Altidore. There are 16 days between now and the club’s next match, which gives the team some time to reach a crucial verdict on what’s next for the club’s greatest-ever goalscorer, a decision that could potentially alter the course of this franchise.
“We still are going to use the international break to discuss the situation in-house,” TFC GM Curtis recently told Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press. “That conversation will be handled internally. It will be a club decision. And it will incorporate what I would say is the totality of the time that Jozy has been with the club, such that we arrive at a resolution that is in the best interests of the club—and moves us closer to being in a position to win a championship.”
The latter part of Curtis’ statement there is key. With two years remaining on Altidore’s contract, one that has him making the sixth-most in MLS in 2021 ($3.6 million in guaranteed compensation) according to the MLSPA, the reality is that all of this feels a bit too convenient for Toronto FC, and perhaps it is an opportunity to part ways with the financial burden the club legend has become—a chance that the club couldn’t pass up on.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that Altidore hasn’t lived up to his coveted Designated Player status over the course of the past two seasons. In his last 31 matches dating back to 2019, Altidore has scored five times and has managed to go the full 90 minutes on just six occasions. If you look at the Reds’ other two designated players, reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo and 23-year-old Yeferson Soteldo, let’s face it: this version of Altidore pales in comparison.
For a team like Toronto FC backed by an ownership group who have the financial ability and will to be relatively big spenders on the global market, there’s no debating that it’d be more beneficial for the club to utilize that third designated player spot in a different fashion.
"In my opinion, if Toronto FC can find a way to get out of Jozy Altidore's contract, it would be one of the best things to happen to this club right now." @MichaelSingh94 on Jozy's DP contract @WakingtheRed #WTRWeekly #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/RtnsymM0hv— Footy Talks (@FootyTalksLive) June 1, 2021
But there’s other factors that the team needs to consider if they do decide to head in that direction and ultimately part ways with their second all-time leading goal scorer.
Again, and I don’t say this lightly: he’s a club legend and has been a cornerstone of this franchise since his arrival in 2015. He’s built relationships with players, staff, media members, and the fans over his tenure that stretch well beyond what any of us will ever fully understand.
We know Altidore and captain and fellow countryman Michael Bradley have a very close relationship, but there’s also there’s also the influence he has on Toronto FC’s young players that the team needs to consider. As Armas has voiced in the past, Altidore has amazing relationships with the young guns like Ralph Priso, Jayden Nelson, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, as well as with other veterans on the club, so there’s a chance his loss may be yet another step in dividing players and coaches.
So while it may be better for the team on the field, saying goodbye to Altidore like this could cause ripples within the TFC dressing room and TFC fanbase, which is the last thing that the team wants or needs with the way things have gone early on this season and why Curtis and President Bill Manning are approaching this situation carefully and delicately.
There’s a real chance here that Altidore may have played his last game in a Toronto FC uniform. The first MLS transfer window closed Tuesday night and will re-open on July 7. We’ll likely get an answer, or at the very least, a sense of the direction the club will be heading in before then, but regardless of the outcome, regardless of how it may benefit Toronto FC long-term, as Mitchell Tierney candidly illustrated, what a shame it would be for another club legend to go out on another unfortunate and controversial note.
He gave us that goal, he gave us other countless iconic moments, heck, he helped save us from the mediocrity that was Toronto FC before his arrival. If May 22, 2021 was indeed the last time that we as fans were able to witness Altidore in a Toronto FC shirt, in spite of how you may feel about him now, it’ll be a sorrowful moment for every supporter that has lived through the highs and lows of this team for the past half-decade or more. The club would not be where it’s at now without the footprint left by Altidore, and I’d go as far as saying soccer in Toronto may not be where it’s at now without the impact of the American striker.
He was that important to this franchise, to this city—a city that he still very much loves and cherishes—which is why if this is indeed the time to say goodbye to Altidore—or whenever that time may be down the road—I can’t wait for that sendoff at BMO Field, in front of the fans that he’s done so much for; what a spectacle that’ll be.
But for now, let’s see how this story unfolds and let’s see what’s next for the TFC legend.